For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
December 19, 2008 by NSLJA
Journalists are nearly extinct species today in Sri Lanka’s northern district of Jaffna, once a seat of knowledge and a pioneer in Sri Lanka’s as well as the world Tamil journalism.
The enormity of this dearth was reflected by one recent incident when one of the worst flooding in recent memory went totally unreported despite it killing many people and making scores of people homeless.
The first Tamil newspaper in the world named “Morning star” was published in Jaffna in 1841. Mr. Henry Martin as its editor became the first native journalist in Sri Lanka. Some other newspapers were also published in Jaffna in those days, they were Patriot, Jaffna Freeman and Literary Mirror.
Catholic Guardian and Hindu Organ were started in 1876.
“Eelakesari” a Tamil weekly published in Jaffna between 1931-1956 period had subscribers in India, Malaysia, South Africa, Fiji and Mauritius where there are sizable Tamil population.
In 1956, the first provincial daily was established in Jaffna named “Eelanadu.
” A newspaper called “Theeppori” published from Jaffna was banned by the government around the same period for apparently criticising the government and the Catholic Church.
After 1985 with the breaking out of the separatist war four new dailies were published in Jaffna. One newspaper was stopped during the latter part of 2006.
Jaffna newspapers today are being publishing with lot of difficulties. Nearly fifteen media workers have been killed in Jaffna including six journalists within the last three years.
Some others have been abducted and still unaccounted for. The regional press companies face attacks and threat day by day. Some times these newspapers have had to face aerial attacks too.
“Uthayan” the leading newspaper published from Jaffna functions
with police security with its editor and news editor forced to stay within the office premises for safety.
Jaffna had a long critical journalistic tradition from 19th century, even as a British colony. But now it suffers from a lack of man power because the profession has become so life threatening that no person wants to take up journalism as a career.